U.S.-Argentina pact lifts Galaxy

Satcaster set to bow following signing of accord

MIAMI — After months of waiting, Hughes-backed satcaster Galaxy Latin America (GLA) is set to bow in Argentina this week, following Friday’s signing of a U.S.-Argentine satellite reciprocity accord in Washington.

Argentine prez Carlos Menem is expected to meet with GLA co-investor Gustavo Cisneros today, at the Paris-based international broadcast center for the World Cup, and officially inaugurate the service.

GLA sources said they expect Menem will simultaneously present Cisneros with an operating license for the satcaster.

“The day the license is given, we can start marketing and installing,” said GLA legal counsel Chris Hansen. Argentine retail outlets are already stocked with GLA decoders and dishes.

Under the terms of Friday’s accord, U.S. birds such as PanAmSat’s G-VIII and Pas-6 — respectively the South American distribution nodes for GLA and rival operator Sky — will be free to beam into Argentina.

Launched two years ago, GLA operates in a dozen countries but has been kept out of Argentina by regulations designed to protect privatized satellite operator Nahuelsat and also the local cable industry, which at $2 billion is Latin America’s biggest.

Sky is catching up to GLA in its pan-Latino subscriber count but is behind in its preparations for Argentine entry, having not yet chosen a local distribution partner. GLA is partnered with media giant Clarin.

Sky, whose backers are News Corp., Televisa, Globo and TCI Intl., hopes to launch in Argentina by the end of the year.

Two weeks ago, a local satcaster sought in the Argentine courts to prevent the granting of a license to GLA (Daily Variety, May 28); the current status of that lawsuit is unclear.